Creating a ‘persona’, the personality of a character portrayed for the purposes of the game, is the keystone of roleplaying. The player cannot even really begin to play a game until he has some idea of just who this character (persona) is and how he must behave. This requires a bit of serious thought and consideration. Most of that sort of formative thinking is likely to take place in the player’s head while going through the process of generating the character and recording the numbers that represent him according to the mechanics of the rules, as a natural part of that process.
The flow of the layout of Character Generation was designed to help with this.
The personalities of characters within the context of a roleplaying game provide the vehicle for play. While generating the hard numbers that govern the abilities and capabilities of a character, the player must give a little thought to what those things actually mean and the impact they have had in the context of that character’s personality. Focusing on one or more major differences in the character’s personality as opposed to the player’s own can make assuming the role easier when roleplaying. When preparing the character and when actually playing him, the player needs to keep in mind the character’s trade(s), skills, general social background (especially when roleplaying in social game world situations), racial abilities and point of view, appearance, and what these facts say about how he has spent his life up to the present, and what all those facets add up to as far as making a statement about who that character really is in the medieval fantasy game world, as opposed to how others may perceive him.
A character’s personality, the “persona” that the record sheet represents, should NOT just be the player’s own in another time period. That is where trouble arises in meshing with the medieval realities of the game world and shedding anachronistic thinking. It is actually easier to make the character a variation on the player, an alter-ego – of course – but with a few twists and variations as a result of the basically medieval life he has lived. This takes so much more imagination and creativity. The character can have a calling card, or two, such as a particular color with which he is constantly associated in either general dress or a specific accessory such as a kerchief or scarf or hat, or matching hat and glove set, or a staff, walking stick or cane with a distinctive head, a fan or key fob, lapel pin, or the like of a particular design and/or gemstone adornment that the character is never without, or some sort of sigil or insignia, although in the later case and especially in combination, the PC must be careful of the rights of nobles and the livery laws if he does not have the social rank to justify it. A distinguishing trait might take the form of a phobia, an inordinate fondness for pastries or sweets, a particular delicacy, meat, fish or fowl, or some particularly fine drink of some kind always on the board in his chambers, a strong and unreasoning love and loyalty to a particular type or class of people, race, family bloodline, etc. or the same in enmity. The player might even choose a couple of these as a basis for fleshing the character out. These sorts of things help to shape the character’s attitudes, reactions, and even his favored course of action in certain situations, the manner of his approach.
In Realms of Myth the choice of race is placed first because it is the base on which the player builds his character persona for the game. Racial attitudes shape the basic personality of the character. His point of view is affected by the perspective of a span of years that may be much longer than human, and the perspective of an average height that is likely to be just as different from human (unless of course he IS human). Race defines general opinions, favored environment influences of special knowledge and abilities on lifestyle and attitudes towards the natural world at large, and general cultural slant regarding the other races.
As the game goes on, the player’s sense of his character persona grows, but it is here with the race that characterization actually begins.
The player need actually only read the descriptions of those races that sound interesting and choose the one that best suits him. Generally speaking, the player should take care not to choose a race for his character that is too far removed from the flights of fancy with which he identifies so he enjoys playing it. This is very important as the player commonly portrays the character during every game, time after time. Not all races are suitable for all players. There is no accounting for taste, as they say. If the player discovers he just doesn’t mesh well with the character he has created, he should pass him around and see if there is another player who would enjoy playing him sometime. It takes a fair amount of work to create a character. It is a shame to simply throw one away. It is so much better if it can end up in the hands of someone who can eventually enjoy portraying it to its full potential.
The player should start with some definite ideas about who his character is and then seek to create that during the origins and background generation process, to ensure he achieves the character he wants to play by the time the Character Generation process is done. He should discuss his idea for the character with the GM to determine if or how much of this background and heritage generation step can be skipped, and/or whether the GM deems any additions to the character concept necessary for the purposes of maintaining game balance, especially between the characters entering play at the same time.
When a player hits upon an agreeable concept for his character in beginning the character creation process, his character’s origins and background, the circumstances under which he was raised and the details of the family situation in which he grew up quite commonly are not included, or they are barely sketched in. These are ALL the player’s responsibility to consider and determine, however. These things seem to be of little or no concern in most players’ concepts of what it means to roleplay or be those characters, and that is rather short-sighted. While social class itself may sometimes be a consideration or even a key element in a character concept for some players, for many it is not. Indeed, when social class and origins are considered, it is only in their most rudimentary form, rarely if ever being developed beyond the vague generality of “noble” or “commoner”, or “father/mother was a (craftsman)/(tradesman)”. Additionally, social class is usually only included for the advantage it can provide when a character of noble blood circulates among the commoners, or in the same vein, for the ready access to information, equipment and other resources that being of low class provides to characters engaged in more nefarious pursuits, among the criminal element. The much richer color background can give to the character in play is generally glossed over or completely ignored. Oftentimes, players fall into a rut of thinking that all nobles are essentially equal and/or that only those of noble blood can have any high purpose to their lives. Each of the social classes is itself composed of different strata referred to as “stations”, however. All noblemen are NOT created equal. Similarly, while all knights are noble, not all those bearing noble titles are knights. Even in common “noble-centric” thinking, the details of the particular strata of the noble class from which the character hails can impact the character’s place in game world society, provide additional perspective, make him more interesting to play.
Furthermore, such details as size of family, sexes of siblings and their names and ages, and details of relationship status with and between siblings and of parental relationships, for example, also rarely ever occur to the player in formulating a concept for background and origins unless the GM quizzes the player and presses for the information. For some, these sorts of details are not nearly as important as the nuts and bolts of who these characters are in the present, which defines their capabilities in the game world when they are brought into active play. From a characterization point of view, however, this stage of character development or character building is VERY important. Such details are vital to the actual character role and the true spirit of roleplaying. They show the road the character must have trod through the game world to get to the point where he stands at the start of the game, when he is first brought into active play. From the GM’s point of view these details are vital for writing storylines and creating plot hooks to draw the characters into the stories once the character is brought into play.
It is very important that the player have a feeling for the character’s WHOLE life, that he has had an existence prior to being brought into play, and get a general sense of the direction the character should be taken once play has commenced. Family background and a sense of past history are essential to good roleplaying. Detailing the family gives the player an excellent idea of the sorts of situations the character has been through up to the time the player brings him into the game and mold him during play.
Background, from legitimacy of birth or lack thereof, size of family, and the character’s position among his siblings, relationships between parents and siblings, to social class and family station, all help build a more complete character concept and aid characterization. It also provides another touch of individuality to set the character apart from others, to provide that much more depth to the persona. Like people in the Real World, a character in RoM is the product of his environment, his home and family, especially insofar as they determine the sorts of opportunities he has had.
While RoM belongs to the general class of “Swords & Sorcery” fantasy games, a great effort has been put forth here to include all the elements of the historic medieval period, rather than falling back on an all-too-common over-simplified “pseudo-historic” method. Here in character background are included a number of details that can better prepare the player to relate to the details of a more authentically medieval game world, with which the GM has also been equipped to use in creating the setting and atmosphere for his games. Like the treatment given the races provided, this is to aid in acclimatizing the players and GM alike to the nuances of more truly “medieval” roleplaying and the historic folk traditions for which this game was designed and written as a showcase for the players’ pleasure.
While many details, number of siblings, number of marriages, who raised the child, and the relationship the character has/had with all of the family members, and so on, may not be important to many players, those relationships may very well be important to the GM. They provide vital hooks for the GM to weave the character’s presence into the day-to-day fabric of life in the gameworld. The crafts practiced by siblings, and the crafts practiced by their spouses may suddenly become important during play if the character stands in need of such services, especially where there is a positive relationship with the family member. Weddings, birthings, naming rites, birthdays, anniversaries, annual holidays, funerals, and all such events that occur in the family may come to command some of the character’s attention and time in the form of family functions, and may be shamelessly manipulated by the GM as plot devices to pull characters into various adventures.
These aspects of character background can give the origins more depth and, in the case of being orphaned, many of the details may well remain hidden to the player, making for secrets to uncover as the character’s game life slowly plays out.
How many such twists and aspects of origins there are, or how deep the background is, really is up to the player. He need only construct as much of the character’s origins and background as he likes, perhaps only just enough to explain how he became who he is according to trade and skills, and turn the results over to the GM.
IF a player elects to take make the background minimal and utterly simplistic, it becomes a matter of the GM’s own discretion and prerogative should he wish to enhance and embroider on it to create a richer, more complete tapestry for his own uses in writing tie-in’s for story arc backgrounds or hooks for motivation, and also for creating connections between PC’s to provide drama and/or especially to bind the PC party closer together.
Once the character is brought into active game play, the player is handing the reins over to the GM to fill in any and all blanks at his own discretion as the game goes on. Once the player has brought the character into play, any additions (NOT changes) to background and origins the player wants to make, especially those that are simply a matter of preference, must be discussed with the GM. The player may well find that the GM has set up elements to facilitate implementing something in the game that is plot-related, regardless of whether it is immediately apparent or not, and some additions, and especially amendments the player may desire to make, may have to be modified to accommodate the work the GM may well already have put into it.
Only some of the details discussed in Heritage & Background are likely to be important in regards to the rest of the character generation process, and then mostly only insofar as it affects the money with which the character gets to buy equipment and supplies for the start of play. Social class, family station and sibling rank within the family all directly affect a character’s wealth at the start of play. The character’s relationship with his parents as defined in this step of character creation can affect that money, as well.
His trade can be just as important in that regard, however, if not moreso. The player or GM is certainly free to flip forward and look at Step 6 to see what impact they actually have.
The player should start with some definite ideas about who his character is and then seek to create that during the background generation process, to ensure he achieves the character he wants to play by the time the Character Generation process is over. He should discuss his idea for the character with the GM to determine if or how much of this background and heritage generation step can be skipped, and/or whether the GM deems any additions to the character concept necessary for the purposes of maintaining game balance, especially between the characters entering play at the same time.
Background and heritage refer to the circumstances of a character’s birth – where he comes from among the complex layers of society, his position in the home in which he grew up, the legitimacy or lack thereof of his birth, the general circumstances under which he was raised. Since it defines the point in society from which the character first seeks to rise and enter society, background must be determined before the player determines any of the details of knowledge and training by which that process is achieved.
This information is likely to have a direct impact on the skills a character has opportunity to learn, the way the character is viewed and treated by society at large in the gameworld, as well as the sorts of opportunities he may have for advancement in society through his deeds.
Most every step in generating background for characters illustrates the average (most commonly occurring) results. These may be modified to suit the player, so he ends up with the character he wishes to play, subject ultimately to the GM’s approval. As mentioned, the player may have to accept a disadvantage or two to balance any advantages he wants the character to have in his background, especially when those advantages are considered significant in game terms.
The importance of the character’s social background is obvious, BUT the player also needs to consider what the trade(s) and skills the character has cultivated say about how he has spent his time from early on in that background (Petty Skills) and how those trades and skills show what his interests and priorities in life are. Those show what sorts of activities the character has been a part of, though not necessarily his motivation for doing so. The player will need to give at least a little thought to relating those skills to his background to determine what drove him in the direction he went. If he feels the need, he can even sit down with the GM and workout a framework of events which would have brought him to the point at which he will pick the character up and begin active game-life, to whatever level of detail best suits the player. Finer points and details can be more easily filled in by the player (subject to the GM’s review) and/or GM at various times during actual play of the character, as the fancy strikes, or the GM may choose to complete the character’s background in toto prior to bringing the character into active play.
The player should understand that a scholarly dwarfish Wizard, the 2nd son of a noble, who pursues the Arts of magick and Alchemy also, disdaining arms and battle, is NOT going to be very popular with father, or mother, or both, in forgoing the training in the arts of war to which he was born as a nobleman. Any exception to this must be supported by a very strong explanation. Training in the skills of arms and battle strategies and tactics are the legacy and heritage of his class. Turning his back on this could very well have resulted in or lead to his being disinherited and perhaps even disowned. If the poor dwarf hasn’t found a practical application for his magickal and alchemical Arts, his family is doubtless going to be on the lookout for ways in which to distract him from those interests and wean him away from them, even using what influence they can muster to attract a wife for him or, failing that, treat with him only carefully, formally, at a distance – if not actually engaged in trying to commit him to the care of a dwarfish facility the equivalent of Bedlam until he should recover his wits. Such a character would do best to hold himself in many ways aloof from both his family and the members of his class. He cannot trust his family in general or he may lose his freedom. He has nothing in common with the noble class of dwarf-kind, their general opinion of him and his interests are already known. He is not likely to trust his “companions of the moment” (fellow PC’s) until he can learn more of them and form a clear opinion of them from their actions and through observing them, due in part to his race’s view of strangers, his early noble up-bringing, and his taste for books and things mystical, which make him rather introverted.
If the character is an elf of any sort, the player should be thinking in very long periods of time as far as character goals. Such characters have eternity. They appreciate gradual, incremental improvements and changes. The pace of common mortal lives they find exhilarating like a roller-coaster, but that sort of life cannot be maintained indefinitely. Perhaps a mortal span of years among them, and then an equal (or longer span) in the peace of their own folk is not unreasonable. Getting attached to those of the mortal races can be heart-breaking in the end, however. Nonetheless, there are those who keep going back to it and finding new friends, especially among the blood kin they befriended previously. In spite of this, such a life has its pitfalls and dangers. If an elf is wronged by an ill-fated mortal in a moment of rashness, the revenge that might be wrought him and his descendants in retaliation could go on for generations (if the elf is so disposed).
The quiet, dour dwarf character will stand in great contrast to a witty, engaging, and friendly dunladdin Warrior (Knave), 5th and youngest son of a freeman farmer, who spent his time in the company of entertainers travelling with the faires and learning the sleight-of-hand of the Mountebank and skills of the Acrobat. Being the youngest son of 5 gave him all the freedom he wanted to get away from the farm, and he was encouraged to do so because of the sure knowledge that there wouldn’t be much, if anything, that his family would be able to give him beyond an apprenticeship.
The attitudes and sympathies of the middle son of an affluent townsman will not be anything near those of an illegitimate eldest girl-child of a rural serf. The first will have gotten used to a great deal of freedom and monied privilege, free from most if not all feudal and signeurial duties, while the second will have grown up being considered a financial burden, depending on how pretty she is, and beset on every side by manorial custom and law.
The noble character who engages the street people and takes up the trade of Knave or especially that of Assassin must have had a reason for doing so. Maybe he sees something wrong with the station in life to which he was born. Maybe he dabbles in the skills of outlaws in defiance of family and social pressures and responsibilities. The base-born character who aspires to be a Mystic or Wizard, who cultivates the skills of the sophisticate or Scholar as Courtier or Alchemist, may just be spurning his low heritage or he may have a burning need to raise himself and then his family out of the hard and uncertain life to which the landbound are subject, or he may be climbing up to wreak vengeance upon someone or some group which reduced his family to that state, as many families were in the wake of the Conquest of William of Normandy – or upon a hard overlord, reeve, bailiff or even sheriff who exploits his family, takes advantage of them, grinds them down simply due to their lack of social position and any real power or ability to defend themselves.
A great number of similar influences can be derived from the choice of a character’s primary (and secondary) trade, and his racial background in regards to that trade, and from them the manner in which he approaches the work of that trade, and the direction of his goals in that trade, and his general goals in life. A Wizard character might take the position that the Church are nothing but a bunch of pedantic, dogmatic propagandists with no capacity for true original thought at all, or narrow that attitude down to perhaps only a few of the most extreme orders within the Church (which would ultimately be more acceptable and more healthy and playable in the long run). If taken to the first extreme, this could well get the character excommunicated and shunned by society in general, as the overwhelming majority will be staunchly faithful (and just as “clod-pated” in the Wizard character’s estimation). If his attitude “infects” others, he is likely to be branded a heretic and pursued by various sects who see his “purification” and “perfection” as their duty, including the Sacred Knights, depending on the political power the religion holds to make such pursuit legal in the lands the character travels.
The player of a Huntsman character should think about what he wants, what he is striving for, at the height of his career. If he is a follower of the Olde Ways and the Green Lords of field and stream, he might eventually become a student of the Witches or Druids, particularly if the player equipped him with a portion of that knowledge as a secondary-trade during Character Generation. The Witches and Druids will be reluctant at best to complete the training of one who has flouted their teachings and philosophies during his career. The player of that Huntsman must first make him a follower of the Olde Ways if he wishes to be rewarded by those who administer that faith later in his career.
The Sacred Knight must similarly pay close attention to his religious duties and seek out a Mystic mentor to advise him if he wishes to have that avenue of advancement open to him at the apex of his career. It should be noted here that it is just as possible to have a Sacred Knight of the Green Lords as it is of the Light, or a Mystic in the same scenario serving those same Green Lords, as well.
Alternately, a Huntsman might pursue a political career in service, climbing the feudal ladder, up in the Marshalsea until he receives a sergeanty, a full feof of his own, and appointment to government office from the Crown, to be knighted, to receive a keepership in the forests, perhaps to receive a Lordship as a minor baron, even accumulating land and estates to climb the ranks of the nobility, the same as any Warrior.
In the end, by following the race, background, and the trades/skills given the character, the persona or character role will be much more easily defined for and discovered by the player, his fellow players, and the GM, as well as rewarding and satisfying. Certainly there will be some apparent conflicts or contrasts in regards to the character’s attitudes and background and/or trade, BUT the player must pay some heed to these and acknowledge that these elements or factors of the character’s personal or cultural background are valid and should exert a very real influence on him – attitudes, motives, deeds, and goals. The player should understand that steering the character across the grain of his background, race, trade, and/or the basic nature of the medieval fantasy gameworld can place the character in very real danger, whether he has the backing of the party in doing so or not.
The player should look for the holes in his character’s skills, especially among Petty Skills, for the lack of certain skills may indicate places, people, things, or circumstances with which the character will not be comfortable, or may even fear outright. Lack of skill at swimming should probably make the character a little uneasy around bodies of water. Lack of the Horseman skill might make the character a little nervous around the mounts used in his native culture (horses or otherwise), while lack of any Scholastic leanings in any of his trades (primary, secondary or bundled), and especially lack of ability to read (Literatus), would be a solid basis for the character mistrusting common clerks and even being a bit belligerent to those who have chosen education and/or knowledge as a way of life, such as the various forms of the Scholar trade and the clergy who administer education. The player might even extend this mistrust and belligerence and magnify it to the point of unreasonable irascibility towards those who practice Wizardry, which has a written tradition (as opposed to Druid- and Witchcraft, which do not), and all well-educated Mystics – unless the character is a pious and devout follower of the faith with a greater than average SPT score, in which case that irascibility might better be expressed as fear.
In addition to defining a character’s prejudices and fears, the player will need to think about character goals. Does he really have any? Does he have more than one? Are they long term or short term? The player should look at his character closely, and his background, and then his race and trade in turn, to get a direction. These should point the way to any goals that can be immediately defined.
Is the character at all scholarly? Is he to be a student of the world, studying the languages and cultures of foreign lands? Is he a collector of histories, legends, and folklore? Maybe he has an eye for the arts, a lover of paintings and/or sculpture, a collector of objets d’art, antiquities or the like from his own or foreign lands, or perhaps from long dead civilizations. Does the character desire power? How does he define power? What form will it take – public and political, underworld and criminal, religious, arcane magickal, financial, military? How strongly will he pursue power? How badly does it consume him? To what end will he use this power? Does he want fame, renown and prestige, to be known where ever he goes and to do what he wishes because others either fear or adore him so much? Does he wish to preserve things in the state in which HE believes they should be and always remain? Is his desire to enhance the glory of his god(s) through service? Persecution and eradication of those things which the character perceives to be “evil” in the world? Service to his fellow man? (Mystics and members of the clergy certainly do NOT have a monopoly on service to their deities.)
What exactly are the character’s (social, familial, professional, etc.) duties and responsibilities, as HE sees them? To whom does the character see himself as being responsible by social ties, familial, professional, to help to nurture and raise up, to whom does he feel he is answerable or accountable? Mentor(s)? Childhood friends and companions? How do his views in these matters contrast with those of his peers, if at all?
Does the character have the true adventurer’s spirit? The desire to climb the mountain because it is there? The need to climb the next ridge to see what is beyond because he has never seen it, or better yet, because NO-one else has ever seen it (as far as he knows)? Or is he driven like the habitual knight errant, to right every wrong he encounters, championing those who are not strong enough to stand up for themselves? These are the types of searching questions the player should ask himself about his character. Which major social or special interest (professional) groups the character’s drives and goals place him in conflict with should be a hot topic of conversation with the GM.
Of course, these questions need not, probably should not, and probably cannot ALL be answered prior to bringing the character into play. The player is not likely to have a clear enough idea of his character to answer these questions prior to playing him. Indeed, the answers of many of these may well change at various times as the game progresses and the character grows and matures in the player’s mind. The player will find answers enough once the character has been brought into play and he begins to get a grasp on what that character is all about. No doubt, the shifting tides of Virtue and Vice within the character and in those around him will influence things greatly.
Resolving these initial challenges helps to solidify the player’s idea or concept for his character’s persona.
One thing all players must recognize to start with is that, except for their adventuring gear (and provisions), armor, tools for their skills (as applicable) and weapons and the money they have left over from buying all those goods, ALL characters have NOTHING but their trades and skills, abilities, and clothing when they first are brought into play – and such friends and family as the GM provides in the background briefing that describes the character’s place in the gameworld and his current circumstances. The quality and number of friends and family can be influenced, BUT any such details must be worked out with the GM.
This means that ALL characters need to secure some kind of “situation”. The players must address this in their characters’ backgrounds, or their GM’s are sure to do it for them. This includes a roof over the characters’ heads and some sort of prospect for income, whether employment or retainer in some household, as afforded by the character’s trade(s) and skills. Many characters, perhaps most, may start out still living with their parents, especially when they come from noble families with greater benefits and resources to draw on for support.
Some characters may be granted what starts out as a “stable situation” that meets their needs. There is some sort of personal, family, or professional relationship that must be maintained in order to keep this as the game unfolds, from one adventure to the next. Most characters have a “domestic situation” which only remains stable for a limited time, and should begin seeking immediately to find other means, even if only a garret room or cellar accommodations that they can call their own in some greater house. The characters’ adventures are likely to place too much of a strain on the initial situation for it to last very long, often due to requirements and responsibilities that are expected in return. It may be that the party together is able to forge a fraternity and between them establish a hall of their own which fulfills this function, for those who need it. Once this basic need (goal) is accomplished, each player is free to raise his character’s sights.
Those adventurers who have some coin to start out with may begin with a room or small suite in a greater home, small garret, or cellar. If they are not native to the area where the GM is starting them out, they may begin by staying at an inn (which will only take in strangers and aliens, not locals) while they look for a situation. The more coin they have to burn, the more picky they can afford to be, and the longer the term for which they can negotiate. If the coin is sufficient, they might get a house of their own for a year with an unlimited lease. Rent of this sort may be collected yearly, or may commonly be split into two payments, one every 6 months. Those with entertainment skills might be able to secure a situation with an inn for regular entertaining every afternoon and/or evening, from which they may glean a few tips, and a place to sleep. If the character ends up being enough of a draw, one or two meals a day might be allowed, or at least a certain daily allowance provided against what he eats, charged at the same rate as the patrons.
The GM is likely, without doubt, to come up with a twist on character background or plot twist early in the game to weave them together, to provide the characters with common ground and a common cause for them to get together and pools their resources to pursue the adventure he has written for them, also providing means and motivation for them to work from there to strengthen their association.
A character of means might help another character find an agreeable situation. Actually putting one character under the authority of another, in his service and subject to his orders can be a little dicey, however.
From there, the GM will take the characters through various adventures, a campaign with some sort of ultimate common goal, a series of campaigns, over the course of which the characters should always seek to put by the means to establish themselves.
One of the first goals for ALL characters is likely to be a “home base”, a place of safety that is owned, free of all encumbrances OR within the feudal hierarchy (as appropriate to the character), one which provides his minimum needs for survival – shelter and food. Some characters may be granted this to begin play, but they will be the exceptions rather than the rule. Unless a character is the heir to a landed estate (and that brings trouble in and of itself to the adventuring character), no character is likely to own any land, and no prospects for any except that he buy it. Land, being the basis by which wealth and power are measured, is rather expensive, but accumulating wealth and buying up land either in the countryside or in one or more towns, or both, can be a great way to establish the character(s) and his reputation, and/or the fraternity or guild of PC’s (as applicable), as persons of consequence in the gameworld. It is also the road to true freedom (manumission) for those of base birth, and the means of freedom for their families as well, since freedom must be purchased on an individual basis. If the PC, with or without his compatriots, accumulates sufficient wealth he may actually be forced by statute to get himself knighted. This is the practice of “distraint of knighthood”, usually enforced as a measure to ensure that enough knights are fielded for success prior to a battle or before commencing to prosecute a war.
Eventually, if the player is to fully appreciate the life and lifestyle of the medieval fantasy gameworld, the player must begin to think in the same terms as a medieval magnate.
Many players eventually start thinking of marriage for their characters, especially as their livings become more comfortable, and the GM starts to trot out the occasional winsome lass in search of a well-to-do husband, or the fathers of the same class and station begin to shop the eligible bachelors for husbands for their daughters, hoping to catch a rising star to benefit the entire family. This is especially true when the player is winding down, getting ready to retire a character, or has become established enough in his trade that a wife becomes necessary to further social goals, and heirs are needed to carry on the family name and continue to build the family estate(s), and marriages for the children to secure alliances and consolidate fortunes.
The search for a mate is considered a very serious business. Finding a spouse of equal or lesser means (class and station) is not TOO difficult, but not so good for the family fortune, which may soon be eaten up by needy relatives. To secure a spouse of equal or greater means representing a strong and advantageous alliance due to an eventual inheritance or influential blood ties to greater nobility, ensuring the children prosper beyond what the character enjoys, is much more tricky and requires a sharper eye to find, excellent timing, and much keener negotiations. With marriage comes children to carry on the family name and inherit all the character has worked so hard to build. The ultimate goal of the people of the period is to found a dynasty, the ultimate reward in roleplaying is to take up the threads of the PC family’s destiny, to perhaps take up the life of a younger brother, the character’s own child, or a younger first or second cousin when the original character retires , and then to play down through the generations, too, if the game continues long enough.
Perhaps the GM has set the game up so that after a couple campaigns the characters are all ready to settle down and have children so that after a couple more campaigns the character can retire and then time is fast-forwarded far enough so the player can take up the life of his original character’s child and do the same with him, then take up the life of the grandchild of his choice, and so on. All the while the player gets to manage the family’s wealth and estates, adding to it, slowly raising the status of the family. taking an active hand in establishing the family, and carefully nursing its wealth, nurturing its social standing and reputation. Those who start in the landbound class might work their way to freedom and into the respected oligarchies of the towns, or perhaps into the ranks of the gentry. those of the free commonalty or gentry might find a way up into the nobility, while nobles might lift themselves up to great heights, to important positions in the enormous medieval bureaucracy managing the realm, regular attendees recognized in the royal Court, becoming national figures of note and close associates (if not friends) of the royal family.
Very likely the character may look for love, but the player must understand that the NPC women and their families are NOT (if the GM plays it according to period). This is primarily a business transaction for the benefit of both families. A pleasant demeanor and a kindly disposition is sufficient for most. Starting with a partner in marriage who is respectful and sees life much the same way and with largely the same goals as far as family and children is often considered a good match. Love may come in time, if the garden is well-tended, and it did quite often, historically. Love does spontaneously occur, but it is often considered an inconvenient folly, rarely indulged for a first marriage. Only those whose fortunes are assured can afford to marry for reckless love.
Feudal noble or wealthy commoner, no one wants to be forgotten when they are gone. Aside from the children the character leaves behind him to carry on the family name and attend to honor and reputation and con tinning to build the family legacy, one favorite method of being remembered is to pick out a religious house to patronize which is local to the character’s home – his favorite, at which he spends the most time – if not more than one.
Establishing livings for that religious house is a popular method by bequest (usually by the gift of land whose yearly yield is sufficient for this purpose), for a brother or nun to say prayers in perpetuity to better the lot of the deceased in the afterworld. Providing funds for fellowships or sponsorships to education at a favored college of a prominent university is another popular method of creating a lasting legacy for the future that will carry the character’s name. Providing dowries for impoverished orphaned girls, livings for widows, or money for apprenticeships for orphans who have survived the death of members of a guild of which the character is a member is another widely acknowledged good work during life and as a bequest of one’s estate, as is the making of regular donations to a guild and/or fraternity which the character patronizes in order to ensure the buildings are properly maintained. Building maintenance was a yearly concern in the period of the game, as there were no silicon based sealants or weather-stripping to keep out the weather and protect the fabric of the buildings. A financial gift for the installation of a stained glass window in the local guild chapel, or a new fancy font or font-cover, or any other similar ornamental feature, or just toward the funding of the completion of a church or cathedral, is a common bequest from the wealthy. Contributing to lazar-houses (for lepers) and hospitals, reclamation of prostitutes and other sorts forsaken by the Church, all can establish a lasting legacy to ensure the character’s name will last beyond his death, at least locally.
The player deciding to pursue this course must decide at some point how sincere the character’s efforts are in this vein, whether they are truly being made for the good of those he must leave behind at death, or merely for worldly recognition, for reputation and vainglory. Doing any of these things anonymously is certainly one means of expressing sincerity, but definitely not the only way.